Buy a vacation or honeymoon at BJ’s, Costco or Sam’s Club

While you can find travel savings at all three stores that will easily cover the cost of joining (usually $45-$60 for a basic membership), each store excels in different areas. Here are the pros, cons, and additional perks you can find.

BJ’s
BJ’s offers a wide range of hotel and flight options and is best for savvy or flexible travelers who want to look for many options for the best value and most comfortable. If savings is a priority over convenience, sometimes BJ’s has an edge.

Positives: We found that BJ’s travel site was the easiest to navigate and had the best interface, with plenty of useful filters to help you find what you want. In terms of value, BJ’s falls right in the middle. It’s rarely cheaper, but may offer fully refundable options when other sites don’t. BJ’s is offering 5 percent cashback on ‘Qualifying’ travel bookings in the form of an in-store e-gift card. (The company did not respond to repeated requests for more information about this program, including specifically what travel reservations are eligible.) According to its website, BJ’s offers a 110 percent best rate guarantee on vacation and cruise reservations within 48 hours of purchase. You must meet several conditions for the warranty to apply, so read the fine details carefully.

Negatives: Sometimes the cheapest option is completely impractical, like the 18-hour flight from Miami to Aruba that the one-stop site gave us. To avoid such a nightmare, you need to pay close attention to the search results.

costco
Costco is a good choice for those who want a one-stop shop for ready-made excursions to popular destinations such as Hawaii, the South Pacific, Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean. It wasn’t always the cheapest (although it did provide thousands of dollars in savings in one case), but it does add a lot of extra perks, like airport transfers, room upgrades, or store credit. Sometimes these justify higher rates compared to competitors, but sometimes they just don’t.

Positives: Costco has the most price transparency of the warehouse clubs we evaluated. It gives the total price up front, including taxes and fees (which can change the total cost significantly). We didn’t find any hidden fees or other surprises in the final itinerary. If the hotel requires any fees paid directly to them (such as a parking fee or resort fee), Costco clearly indicates this when you try to book. Their refund policies vary from reservation to reservation, but they are also very straightforward. Costco Executive members qualify for 2% rewards on Costco Travel purchases. The Costco Anywhere Visa by Citi Card earns 3% cashback on eligible travel purchases.

Negatives: We found Costco offers fewer hotel options than Sam’s and BJ’s, and that it doesn’t offer any hotel options only in certain destinations. Travelers who are only looking for a hotel room and want the largest selection of hotels to choose from may be disappointed.

Sam’s Club
In our experience, Sam’s is best for hotel reservations. In one case, it offered savings of more than $1,000 compared to booking directly with a luxury hotel in London, although it didn’t consistently generate savings. According to a spokesperson, Sam’s primary members are families with children who tend to buy tickets to major theme parks such as Disney World, Disneyland and Universal Studios. We have not evaluated these offers.

Pros: Sam’s offers a very diverse selection of well-priced hotel options around the world, as well as tickets (some discounted) for daily tours, Broadway and Disney shows, entertainment options (such as movies, theme parks, concerts), and other tourist attractions . With the Sam’s Club Mastercard, members earn an additional 3 percent cashback on any travel or leisure purchase for use in the store. According to Sam’s website, they offer a best price guarantee within 24 hours of booking, but with a maximum refund of $150 and plenty of fine print.

Negatives: Sam’s doesn’t offer flights, so anyone looking for ready-made vacation packages that include air will need to shop elsewhere. Some of the rental car deals we found did not include unlimited mileage. Sam’s doesn’t include taxes and fees until check out, so if you’re comparing shopping it’s hard to get the full picture to the end. Sam’s also doesn’t include resort fees (or anything else payable to the hotel, such as parking), which is shown in fine print, but, again, it can make it hard to know how much you’ll ultimately pay.

to remember
When purchasing travel from any third party, including Warehouse Club, assistance may be limited if you encounter a problem, such as a flight cancellation. Customer service representatives are not travel agents, and while the company might say travel experts are available around the clock, this was not our experience. Bottom line: if you need to reschedule a flight or there is a problem with the hotel, you should be prepared to deal with the travel service provider directly and do not assume that the warehouse club will come to the rescue.

Always compare prices with the hotel directly. A hotel’s website may offer special packages that can include extras like breakfast or spa credits that can actually make it a better deal than a room rate comparison alone.

Finally, always check for fine print. Cancellation and refund policies may vary between locations and even between different travel purchases on the same site. Double-check the terms of any reservation before paying.

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